Since 1990, Breaking Ground has helped more than 13,000 people escape and avoid homelessness. They’re on the streets of New York every day of the year, 24/7, engaging with the homeless to bring them inside and connect them with services to restore their lives. They are the city’s largest supportive housing provider and operate 22 transitional and permanent housing residences, primarily in New York City.
Each year, the organization hosts a spring benefit titled Serving Up Home to raise critical funds for their street outreach program, which helps the most vulnerable street homeless New Yorkers come indoors and find a permanent home. This year’s event is a cocktail edition, featuring top NYC mixologists creating a top-shelf tasting event for guests to enjoy. This year’s edition features mixologists Marcio R Araujo of The Honeywell, Tynan Craycraft of Barbuto, Kacie Lambert of Handle Bars consulting, Thom Mullen of Frankies Sputino Group, and Chris Whalen who works in NYC and LA. We talked to Brenda Rosen, CEO of Breaking Ground, about cocktails and how this event will help Breaking Ground meet its goals.
Downtown: How did this event come to be?
Brenda Rosen: As a nonprofit, our critical programming is funded in part through donations and philanthropy, and the Serving Up Home event is a vital way to raise funds that build and sustain our amazing outreach program, which is on the streets 24/7/365 helping vulnerable New Yorkers. This year, we’re so excited to have our Junior Board host the event to help build awareness around Breaking Ground’s mission to help New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.
Downtown: What are you most excited about cocktail wise at the event?
BR: Each specialty drink at the Serving Up Home event will be made with our product partner’s Nolet’s Silver Gin, so I’m very excited to see each mixologist’s creative spin. The drinks are all in the spirit of gin-erosity, for a great cause!
Downtown: What does this event help Breaking Ground accomplish?
BR: The money raised from this event will benefit Breaking Ground’s street outreach program, helping the most vulnerable street homeless New Yorkers come indoors, get the help they need, and find a permanent home.
Downtown: What are some of the support services you offer people living in Breaking Ground housing?
BR: Breaking Ground partners with excellent local social service organizations who provide on-site case management, mental health counseling, medical services, job resources, and more. We also have staff who organize events and other activities in the building to engage residents socially, which decreases isolation, builds community, and helps them re-enter society.
Downtown: How do the transitional and permanent housing locations differ?
BR: Our transitional housing (known as Safe Havens) gives the homeless a safe place to stay and access services while we work with them to secure stable, permanent housing. Our permanent supportive housing is rent-stabilized housing – so everyone has a lease – paired with onsite supportive services designed to help people maintain a home for the long term.
Downtown: How long do people stay in the program?
BR: Once people are in our permanent housing, they tend to stay. Our resident stability rate is consistently higher than 98%.
Downtown: Can you explain the partnership between Breaking Ground and the Prince George Ballroom?
BR: Built in 1904, the Prince George was once one of New York City’s premier hotels. After many years of decline and neglect, it was restored by Breaking Ground and reopened in 1999 to provide 416 units of affordable housing for low-income and formerly homeless adults and persons living with HIV/AIDS. The Prince George is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2005, Breaking Ground completed the restoration of the building’s 5,000-square-foot Neo-Renaissance ballroom – an incredible space from the building’s hotel days. Working with four other non-profit groups, including Alpha Workshops, Parsons School of Design, Brooklyn High School of Preservation Arts, and YouthBuild, the Neo-Renaissance ballroom was completed as a design-build project by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects. The Prince George Ballroom is now an event venue, available for rental with proceeds supporting the expansion of Breaking Ground’s programs and housing development work.